This advice sets out the AEC's conclusion in relation to the matters described below:
The 2009/10 annual disclosure return for the associated entity Health Services Union East (HSU East) was lodged by the financial controller on 19 October 2010, a day before the final date for lodgement. This return disclosed total amounts received of $0.00 and total amounts paid of $22,225.
On 30 August 2011 the financial controller of HSU East lodged with the AEC a request to amend figures appearing in the 2009/10 annual return to $17,935,800 for total amounts received and $16,284,546 for total amounts paid. A further request for amendment was lodged on 1 September 2011 changing these figures to $24,989,315 for total amounts received and $24,894,014 for total amounts paid. These 1 September 2011 figures remain current as the disclosure record for HSU East.
The AEC sought to establish whether the amended annual disclosure return for HSU East now provides an accurate disclosure record.
An article titled ‘Expenses probe for Health Services Union’ appeared in The Australian newspaper on 31 August 2011.
Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act). The pertinent section is s.314AEA that requires annual disclosures to be lodged by entities that meet the Act’s definition of ‘associated entity’ found at s.287(1).
This inquiry has taken six months to complete.
For this matter, the AEC corresponded with Barry Gibson, the Chief Financial Controller, and Peter Mylan, the acting General Secretary, of HSU East. The AEC also consulted with Natalie Bradbury the National Senior Assistant Secretary of HSU National Office.
Two officers of the AEC attended the premises of HSU East in November 2011 under the authority of a notice of investigation issued under s.316(2A). As part of this visit the AEC officers examined reports of receipt and payment figures generated from HSU East’s accounting system. These figures were reconciled to the (amended) disclosure return.
The amendments to the 2009/10 annual return of HSU East were initiated by the financial controller prompted by his examination of that return in preparation for compiling the return for the 2010/11 financial year. Two amendments to the figures occurred in the course of three days as a result of the first amendment having been incorrectly prepared from accrual figures.
The explanation offered for the original incorrect return was that the figures had been prepared by a new employee of HSU East who must not have correctly understood what was required. The AEC is of the view that, in those circumstances, the financial controller was not entitled to rely on the return so drafted and the figures prepared should have been checked by a more experienced officer in HSU East before being lodged.
After its inquiries and examination of accounting records, the AEC is satisfied that the 2009/10 annual return lodged for HSU EAST, as it stands following the amendment effected on 1 September 2011, is a complete and accurate disclosure record of HSU East’s finances as required by Part XX of the Act.